Cult of Luna
The Long Road North


3.8
excellent


Release Date: 2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Dark Side of the Moon pt. 1234567890billion

Cult of Luna are practically the only active post-metal band with significant reach outside the genre (sorry, Amenra), an accolade frequently complicit with an illusory sense that they do something their contemporaries aren’t up for. If their audience transcends the label, so must their music, etc. Hold those horses: at this point their sound and formula are so genre-encapsulating (read: heavily predictable) that even the most minor departure feels like a colossal twist. They exploited this rather successfully on 2013’s Vertikal, but their releases since have been defined more by commonalities than points of mutual distinction. We heard this templated on 2019’s A Dawn to Fear, tweaked on last year’s The Raging River, and ‘tis now the hour for round three. Album-of-the-moment The Long Road North fits so naturally into the band’s recent progression (read: chronological sequence of releases) that I struggle just as much to imagine anyone greeting it with disappointment as I do to see them being galactically impressed by it. Bottoms up, it’s a long walk home.

That established, let’s talk about small blessings. The Long Road North is a more sophisticated record than A Dawn to Fear, and Cult of Luna’s reputation for steely competence is quite at home in its various details and refinements. It’s less contingent on the intensity of individual moments, benefitting more from a pervasive atmosphere of the risky-wilderness-journey variety. This is neither as original nor as beguiling as the similarly destitute Somewhere Along The Highway, but it does at least sound more frostbitten than anything else in the band’s repertoire. There’s its identity. Their arrangements have also grown to define individual songs in critical but non-focal ways, with keyboards playing a constant role on the periphery and upper-range guitars accentuating key moments more nimbly than ever. Perhaps the biggest shake-up, this album features chord progressions that actually, uh, progress. Get a load of “Into the Night”, a midway palette-cleanser--cum--chill-intensifier that lays on a spiral of minor chords so thick as to straddle “Phantom of the Opera” territory: maybe a little kitsch to lay down a full haunt, but a welcome change all the same. Complementarily, the dynamics lean a little less on clear-cut peaks and valleys, traversing intermediate terrain at refreshingly flexible trajectories, as per “The Silver Arc”’s fantastic central ‘jam’, for my money the best portent here for the band’s future direction. Finally, when they do go to town on their trademark crushing climaxes, they occasionally find fresh ways to frame them: “An Offering To The Wild” reprises its intro motif in a feint at a wind-down before dropping a pummeling coda that lands all the better for pulling the rug from under our armchairs. Well played, gentlemen. Something something [...] never cease to hone their craft.

These revisions of methodology are all very well and probably commendable, but they occupy enough of The Long Road North that on first inspection you’ll be forgiven for forgetting that post-metal, especially this earthy kind so dedicated to conjuring gigantic momentum from plodding quavers, is much more about the promise of a mammoth payoff and sheer fucking stakes than the cute li’l’ nuances of the journey at hand. Cult of Luna’s albums neither live nor die by their subtleties, and this one is no exception. It’s a success story on its own terms, with opener “Cold Burn” and the title-track shifting colossal weights into satisfying spaces and the endgame highlight “Blood Upon Stone” laying down a truly thunderous finale, but hold it against the rest of their work and its resonance is modest. Is this more an expectation game than actual analysis? Apples and oranges: Cult of Luna’s craft might be tighter than a camel’s shitpipe, but their lifeblood relies on something larger than life that just isn’t conceivable when it feels like they’re abseiling from past peaks. They bring to mind James Cameron’s truism that If you set your goals ridiculously high and it's a failure, you will fail above everyone else's success – for now, this sense is innocuous, but it’s ominous that that our current standard bearers are starting to get diminishing returns from a once-steady formula. The improbability of anyone else seems catching up anytime soon does little to change this.




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user ratings (472)
3.9
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
February 12th 2022


59531 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

best slightly underwhelming album of the year // good band to jam // extremely dull band to write on // i hate this review

Pikazilla
February 12th 2022


29075 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I can't believe I'm saying this but this may not be my favourite album this week...

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
February 12th 2022


59531 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

leave that Big Thief crack pipe alone kiddo

Pikazilla
February 12th 2022


29075 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Big Thief is 2.7 territory, who are we kidding



who's reviewing that btw



Also, what do you know about camel shitpipes

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
February 12th 2022


59531 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

no-one / ronwa / everything

and the consequence was:

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
February 12th 2022


18241 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Calling Cult of Luna albums "album of the moment" seems both perfectly apt and completely arguable.



I'm still yet to listen to this, that will change soon once I get this Skin Tension review done and a second cursory Blood Incantation listen in.

trilo
February 12th 2022


6033 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

spill the beans on blood incantation!

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
February 12th 2022


18241 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

spill the beans on blood incantation!



wrong thread for that but glad you took the bait regardless



thoughts pending, I will say no more...yet

Purpl3Spartan
February 12th 2022


8204 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Can of Tuna

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
February 12th 2022


18241 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Arnold Schwarzenegger:



it's not a tumor

Slex
February 12th 2022


16234 Comments


Lmaooo nocte

LelandAB
February 12th 2022


905 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The Silver Arc kicks ass

figure337
February 12th 2022


886 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I wish Colin's guest spot had actual lyrics and just vocal harmonies. That's really my only gripe so far and it's a small one. Need to jam more in order to rate because CoL is one hard shitpipe to digest.

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
February 12th 2022


2988 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

So this is CoL's Avatar...

What was their Titanic?

What was their Terminator 2?

What was their Pirahna 2: The Spawning?

Demon of the Fall
February 12th 2022


32846 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I remember Dawn being < on first spin vs this, which is encouraging… or maybe this is just more immediate, it went down pretty smoothly



So yeah rules obvs, mostly CoL doing CoL things with additional flavour perhaps to reveal itself later.

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
February 12th 2022


6144 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

They know how to create a massive atmosphere and the heavy stuff is huge. Unfortunately, the album is too long for its own good this time (A Dawn To Fear had a better flow IMO) and the interludes are meh, except the final ambient track.

Slex
February 12th 2022


16234 Comments


The t/t here just, phew

Pikazilla
February 12th 2022


29075 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

t/t and blood upon stone best songs on here, yeah



Silver Arc not far behind

Senetrix666
February 12th 2022


1552 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

thomas really went off on this album

MonumentsOfParalysis
February 12th 2022


840 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Dawn never clicked with me for some reason, but this was immediate. Gives me big SATH vibes and I'm all for it.



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